Queen & Slim (2019)

by - November 27th, 2019 - Movie Reviews

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Haunting Queen & Slim an American Tragedy

A 21st century riff on classics like Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands, Thieves Like Us and Thelma & Louise, the emotionally explosive Queen & Slim is a nightmare romantic thriller ripped straight out of today’s headlines. It is a chronicle of corruption, abuse and racial inequality where a defensive act of violence becomes a frightful trek of survival and discovery, this road trip into the unknown a breathlessly visceral journey that almost can’t help but end in tragedy.

Queen & Slim (2019) | PHOTO: Universal Pictures

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) have almost nothing in common. After their first, and likely only, date heads towards its conclusion, the pair are pulled over for what appears to be a minor traffic violation. Queen is a lawyer and quickly realizes things are not going well and Slim is in mortal danger, but when she tries to use her cellphone to record this encounter the officer shockingly shoots her in the leg. Whether by accident or on purpose things take a decided turn for the worst after that. Fearing for Queen’s life, Slim gets into a fight with the cop. One thing leads to another and the officer ends up dead, the pair forced to grab his gun and flee into the night knowing that Southern law enforcement will not be quick to believe their story this all happened in self-defense.

Directed by Grammy-winner Melina Matsoukas (the mind behind Beyoncé’s “Formation” video) and written by Emmy-winner Lena Waithe (“Master of None”), Queen & Slim is nowhere as simple as that synopsis makes it sound. This is a sprawling, almost epic drama that goes in several intriguing, and oftentimes increasingly outraged directions, all leading to complex societal and political questions most of which are purposefully left unanswered. There is no easy out here, no simple resolutions, everything leading to a place of carnage and sadness that is as eye-opening and haunting as it is disgustingly unavoidable.

Clueless members of the audience will wonder why Queen and Slim don’t turn themselves in. They will mention that the officer had a dashboard camera and the entire incident was caught on film. They will try to argue that these two characters make a catastrophic mistake when they run and shouldn’t be raised up as heroic figures for doing what they did. These are all arguments I do not hold to. While there are other options for the pair, I think that the way Waithe has crafted this story it’s blatantly obvious what would lead Queen and Slim to hit the road instead of standing put to face the music for what happened. In that split second after the gun is fired and the officer hits the asphalt their decision to flee honestly made sense to me, and I find it difficult to understand how others watching the film could ever think or believe otherwise.